Why Is My Snake’s Mouth Open?

Wondering why your Leopard Gecko’s mouth is open? This guide is for you!

It’s not common for a snake to keep its mouth open for an extended period. Find out why your snake is behaving this way when it happens.

Could it be that the snake is yawning, or does it mean something more profound? Snakes don’t yawn – at least not in the sense that humans and other warm-blooded animals are used to.

Snakes open their mouths for various reasons. For example, this is one of the ways they know what’s happening in the environment. If your snake opens its mouth for a long time, it’s trying to communicate something more serious. It could be sick, preparing for brumation, or shedding.

Your snake opening its mouth for a long time could signal that its respiratory system is compromised. Take this reptile to see the vet as a matter of urgency.

snake mouth open

Why Do Snakes Sit with Mouths Open?

There are times you should be worried when your snake keeps its mouth open. But, this does not mean you should run to the vet every time your pet opens its mouth.

You’ll get immense peace of mind when you learn to distinguish when your pet does it as a routine thing and when it signals danger.

Some of the reasons your snake opens its mouth are pretty innocent. For example, it could be that your pet is ‘reading’ the weather or preparing for a meal.

Or, your pet feels defensive and wants the world to know it. In some cases, however, this could be a sign of a serious problem that requires immediate medical attention.

We’ll look at those reasons – both the innocent and the more serious- in a short while.

In the meantime, here are a few things you may want to know about how wide your snake can open its mouth.

  • Your snake can open its mouth as wide as 1500 angle. This is saying something considering that 1800 forms a straight line.
  • These reptiles have ligaments that allow them to achieve such an impossible angle.
  • The snake’s jaws cannot unhinge. However, the upper and lower jaws are independently attached together by only ligaments.
  • Snakes can swallow prey several times wider than their own bodies.

Do Snakes Yawn?

No, snakes do not yawn as humans do. The explanation for this is simple. Human beings are warm-blooded, and the body temperature may rise to the extent a person wants to cool down.

By yawning, this person allows cool air into the body, thus lowering their body temperature. This is not possible with snakes because they are cold-blooded.

They can get only as warm as their surroundings. As such, they don’t need to pull in air to cool their bodies.

Also, it would be wrong to assume that since snakes cannot yawn, they unhinge their jaws.

Snakes open their mouths wide at an angle of up to 1500 because their upper and lower jaws are attached together with ligaments.

So, whenever a snake opens its mouth, it is not yawning. Instead, it does so for reasons that are explained below.

Why is My Snake’s Mouth Open?

#1 – Readying Itself for Feeding

Most casual observers may think a snake unhinges its jaws as it prepares to swallow a meal.

However, what really happens is that the snake uses the ligaments connected to the two sides of the jaws to stretch them.

When this happens, the mouth looks so wide that one might think the upper and lower jaws have come unhinged.

The bigger the meal your snake prepares to swallow, the wider it opens its mouth.

Also, if your snake keeps opening your mouth and you know it has not eaten for some time, it wants you to know it is hungry.

#2 – Realigning the Jaws After a Meal

You may have noticed your snake open its meal lazily after a meal. It almost seems like the pet is letting out a sleepy yawn.

What’s actually happening is that this reptile is realigning its jaws after the meal. Remember, it has to push the ligaments to open the mouth as wide as possible.

Now that the meal has been swallowed, it’s time to set everything in the mouth back to its rightful place.

#3 – It’s a Defensive Stance

Have you seen your snake with its mouth open and hissing? This signals that your pet feels threatened.

By opening its mouth, your snake wants the world to know it will readily defend itself. If your snake is fond of doing this (opening its mouth and hissing), learn how to calm it down.

This entails that you first understand your snake’s stress factors. What prompts it to adopt an aggressive position all the time?

#4 – Trying to Read the Environment

Snakes use their nostrils and the tip of their mouths to smell and get a grip on what’s happening around them.

Around the tip of your snake’s mouth are special receptors called the vomeronasal organs.

Suppose the environment has too many olfactory stimuli. In that case, these receptors alone may not be good enough to help the snake perceive what’s happening around it.

Your snake opens its mouth to decipher and interpret as much of this stimuli as possible.

The next time you observe your snake with its mouth agape, it could be trying to tap into the chemical signature in the environment.

#5 – Your Snake is Readying to Shed

As the snake gets ready to start shedding, the area around the mouth and jawline becomes dry. The skin around this area starts peeling back, and the snake feels uncomfortable.

To push the process along faster, the snake instinctively opens its mouth wide. But, unfortunately, this pushes the shedding skin further down the neck and body, peeling it.

As this happens, you may notice your snake continuously rubbing her mouth and body on objects around the enclosure.

The snake keeps doing this until the entire skin is shed off. Of course, you can help your pet by ensuring that the temperature and moisture are just right.

You should also encourage the snake to dip in shallow, lukewarm water as this softens the skin and makes it easier to come off.

#6 – Your Snake is Unwell

Your snake may open its mouth as a sign of respiratory problems. Ideally, snakes are not meant to breathe through the mouth.

They have nostrils for this. However, if your snake’s airway is blocked by an infection or growth, you’ll see your pet open its mouth wide to breathe.

Other signs that indicate this reptile has a breathing problem include wheezing through the open mouth, mucus around the nose, and mouth rot.


Different breeds of snakes open their mouths for various reasons. Get to know your snake inside out to understand what motivates it to open its mouth.

Could it be that it has just had a most satisfying meal and is trying to align its jaws? Or is your snake trying to communicate it feels threatened?

Understanding these reasons gives you peace of mind. You won’t have to run up and down every time your pet opens its mouth.

Also, you’re in an excellent position to take immediate action when something is wrong.

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